Greenwich jury wants to know who was to blame for downgrading of innovation targets on 2000 project.
The competition jury for the £250m Greenwich Millennium Village is conducting its own inquiry into the project because it is dissatisfied with the findings of an investigation ordered by deputy prime minister John Prescott.

Stuart Lipton, chair of the Greenwich Millennium Village advisory panel, has asked a team led by panel member Ricky Burdett, director of the cities, architecture and engineering programme at the London School of Economics, to look at urban design issues. These were not addressed in Prescott’s report, which was carried out by QS Gardiner & Theobald.

Prescott asked G&T to investigate after project architect HTA resigned in late June, claiming that its housebuilder clients were not planning to deliver promised innovations.

What the jury wants to know

The jury’s inquiry team, which includes John Miles, principal director of Ove Arup & Partners and a representative of the Building Research Establishment, has asked lead architect Ralph Erskine, developer Countryside Properties and HTA to explain changes to the masterplan.

The team wants to find out why the Millennium Village was changed from a prototype for sustainable construction and flexible urban living in the 21st century into a run-of-the-mill housing development. This was the remit Prescott gave G&T, but the jury believes that although the report was critical, it lacked detail and failed to identify who was responsible for the downgrading of the scheme’s ambitious targets.

A meeting last Friday, attended by Lipton, Countryside chairman Alan Cherry, representatives of the jury and of regeneration agency English Partnerships, focused on the “probity of the competition”. Essentially, the question considered was whether the principles that underpinned the original brief had been betrayed.

A source close to the jury said: “English Partnerships is putting together a rather more truthful statement than hitherto, when it has pretended that HTA is the only dissenter on the project. It will reveal that Erskine and his partner were irritated by not being able to control the job.

“Countryside were the people we were doubtful about at the beginning and our doubts have been confirmed. That has to be rectified.” However, he added that the developers now seemed prepared to meet their original targets: “To a large extent, the developers aren’t shirking their responsibilities. They are now meeting a number of the promised energy and cost savings.”

Which targets were they aiming at, anyway?

Another source close to the project said attention was now focusing on the development agreement negotiated by EP, which owned the village site and funded its remediation. This was signed nearly a year after the competition had been won.

He said: “The question is, what targets, what standards, are we talking about? The original bid details or the levels negotiated in the subsequent development agreement?”

An EP spokesperson said: “Gardiner & Theobald has taken the original submission and compared it with the developer’s intent to deliver, and the legal agreement is part of that.” He said the legal agreement allowed for original targets, such as the 80% reduction in energy consumption, to be achieved incrementally, meaning that a lower saving was allowable in early phases.

The spokesperson added that the legal agreement did not bind the developer to use prefabrication techniques and grey water recycling in the initial phases.

But the source close to the jury said the developer had not addressed issues it should have, such as private car parking. The village design was supposed to discourage the use of private cars in favour of the North Greenwich public transport interchange. “The ground-level podium is dominated by accommodation with private car parking spaces. In design terms, that is an inadequacy,” said the source.

Another source said: “HTA’s original idea was very bold. It was a total Egan-like package, with a housing production line that created jobs. It’s tragic that [HTA’s design] got watered down to the point where it had to resign.

“The government is going to end up with a scheme that is not innovative, however nice, and is not a model village.”